CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors approved unanimously the acceptance and appropriation of up to $68.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
The vote came during the board’s July 28 meeting.
According to the funding presentation, led by Budget Director Gerard Durkin, such fiscal recovery funds have specific eligible uses:
- To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality
- To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers
- For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency
- To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure
“This source of funding is going to represent a shift in our approach from the CARES funding that we received last year,” Durkin said. “It’s going to a have a limited emphasis on reimbursement for existing expenditures and more of a focus on long-term investments for the future.”
At its July 28 meeting, the Board of Supervisors was asked to appropriate the full ARPA allocation of $68.5 million, which would allow the county to meet the August deadline to submit a spending plan to the federal government.
“As it stands right now, most of the proposed allocation is toward infrastructure, including parks maintenance and some utility expansion work; $5.7 towards public safety, including $1.5 million for the Midlothian Police Precinct land; and then, some cyber security investments, including for election security,” Durkin said.
The vote was was preceded by a public hearing, during which several members of the local wedding and events industry spoke about the necessity for financial help.
“We are small business owners right here in Chesterfield, and we are requesting funds to be allocated to help us stabilize our businesses,” wedding planner Emmett Hickam said. “For years, we have worked in the background, building an industry, to become a $2.3 billion industry in this commonwealth.”
8News first spoke with Hickam in February, as he and his colleagues in the wedding and events industry shared their plea to either resume work or receive financial support from government. At the time, Virginia was still more than a week away from Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement to amend Executive Order 72 to increase the limit on outdoor social gatherings from 10 to 25. The limit for indoor gatherings remained at 10 people.
“We were left not receiving the invitation from our government to financially assist our businesses in survival. We are too good at obscurity, causing us to be the forgotten industry,” Hickam said. “We are in desperate need of your help.”
Eric and Janice Cunningham also spoke before the board last week. The husband and wife duo operates Debonaire Entertainment.
“We are the only African American-owned small entertainment agency company in Richmond and, as you heard our cohort say, we received zero funding for any of it because we did not qualify,” Janice Cunningham said. “We are asking you for the help. We fell behind on our bills, we fell behind in taxes, we have an office space that we ended up losing because we were not able to qualify for any of the rental programs or anything, and so, as a result, we are still trying to recover from that.”
Although Durkin said that Chesterfield County has only received interim instructions from the federal governments regarding the utilization of American Rescue Plan Act funds, he and Chesterfield County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey also said that certain requirements have to be met in order for such funding to be included in the county’s budget plans.
“I respect and appreciate the members that have come forth,” Casey said. “There’s federal requirements and state requirements. We’re the grandchild to both, in essence. So treasury guidelines that are written specifically to the ARPA funds are a little bit different than the CARES Act funds that we received last year.”
Board of Supervisors Chair and Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland and Vice Chair and Clover Hill District Supervisor Chris Winslow acknowledged the plight of the community members who spoke to the struggles of the local wedding and events industry, and said the county staff would work to see what help could be provided.
“We can try and work with at least state officials to see what might be out there,” Casey added.
Following the public hearing, the board approved the acceptance and appropriation of the American Rescue Plan Act funding, to be allocated as detailed below:
Durkin said that community members can send feedback or questions regarding the funding at any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.